The unique mosaics in the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, located in southeastern Turkey’s Gaziantep province, are being cleaned and preserved for future generations with surgical precision by an expert team. The team of eight from the Gaziantep Restoration and Conservation Regional Laboratories has studiously conserved the precious mosaics unearthed during rescue excavations on the banks of the Euphrates.
The Zeugma Mosaic Museum, which holds a Presidential Culture and Arts Grand Award, is one of the largest mosaic museums in the world. Various spellbinding mosaics are on display at the 30,000-square-meter (98,425-square-foot) museum, which has attracted visitors from around the world since it opened in 2011. Among the distinguished mosaics of the museum are the iconic "Gypsy Girl," whose 12 missing pieces were retrieved from the U.S. decades after they were smuggled abroad in 2018, and the statue of Mars, the Roman god of war and spring. The museum hosted a record number of visitors in 2019 with 340,569 guests, becoming the most-visited site in Gaziantep. It also was visited by 1 million people online amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The museum was first opened for virtual tours in 2016.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Gaziantep Museums Director Özgür Çomak said that they are carrying out periodic checks to ensure the artifacts are preserved for future generations. According to Çomak, senior restorers carry out technical work with appropriate techniques without altering the artifacts or their texture.
“We are doing fine conservation and cleaning work so that our works can be preserved for future generations in a healthier way and without being damaged. We are doing this kind of technical work to hope to see it the same way we can see it today, even after 100 years,” he said.
Ayşe Ebru Çorbacı, deputy director of Gaziantep Restoration and Conservation Regional Laboratories, an affiliate of the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, stated that they are working to ensure the preservation of the invaluable mosaics. “Artifacts on display may get dusty or dirty depending on the environment. Therefore, our fellow restorers clean and conserve these artifacts through periodical checks at least three times a year," she explained.
Çorbacı explained that this process prolongs the life of the artifacts and prevents their destruction. “We are checking the deterioration of the small pieces of stone and mortar that make up the mosaics. If there is such a risk, we intervene before the deterioration spreads and prolong their lifetime to pass them onto future generations. We are trying to intervene in time so that the deterioration does worsen,” she said.
Çorbacı stated that they start with the cleaning of dry depositions in the first stage and continue with photographic and written documentation. “We also document their materials. We look at what kind of stone it was made of, what color stone was used and how much the mortar has deteriorated. We detect problems and restore the mortar accordingly. If the tesserae are dislocated, we intervene and strengthen them in time,” she said.